Homily for the centenary Mass of St Peter and Paul’s church, Geelong
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PETER AND PAUL’S CHURCH, GEELONG, ON SATURDAY, 20TH APRIL 2013 AT 5.00 P.M.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am honoured to be with you to celebrate the beginning of the Centenary year of Saint Peter and Paul’s Parish. The parish was inaugurated on 12th February 1913, with the hall being finished in 1914 and the presbytery in 1915.
It is indeed significant that initially the parish included Geelong West, Manifold Heights, Herne Hill, portion of Newtown, North Geelong, Bell Park, Norlane, Corio, Lara and Batesford. From this, of course, Manifold Heights became a parish in 1948, Norlane in 1950 and Bell Park in 1960. 8,504 baptisms and 3,871 marriages have been celebrated over the hundred years. Irish names predominated in the early years; after World War II Italians, Polish, Lithuanians and so on.
The parish has been served by nine Pastors: Father Edward O’Brien, the legendary Father Joseph James Malone from 1919-1948, Fathers John Egan, George Maltby, John Perkins, Mortimer Fitzgerald and Jack Brady, and then Father Mick Fitzpatrick from 1992, Father Gerard Keith from 2002.
Particularly noteworthy during the 30s, 40s and 50s was the YCW, the Football and Netball Teams, and the Tennis Club, which later gave way to units for the elderly.
As I offer Mass with you, humbly aware of the long and generous history, I keep in mind that through all this time God’s provident care and the unity with Saint Peter and Saint Paul have been the guiding light for your parish. I congratulate you on the witness of your faith.
We live our faith day by day in the ocean of humanity. Paul and Barnabas were contradicted when they urged people to remain faithful to the gift that God has given and yet Paul and Barnabas were a light to the nation. Even when they were driven out and went to Iconium the disciples were filled with joy by the Holy Spirit.
More powerfully, of course, the Apocalypse in the second Reading gives us a picture of people of every race, language and nation; people described as those “who have been through the great persecution”. We must not be surprised therefore if opposition, criticism, slander and wrong assertions are visited upon the Church.
But that is not our focus. The focus that kept Paul and Barnabas going was their knowledge and love of Jesus and the light of the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel is focussed totally on our response to Jesus, as he responded to the Father when he said: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.” Jesus underlines for us that the one thing which is most important in our life is our relationship with Jesus because we are his people and the sheep of his flock.
More than that we have to remember that Jesus’ love for us and his guidance of us is personal. “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and mine know me.” This means of course that our knowledge of Jesus is not just an academic knowledge of a figure, the Son of God, who lived a long, long time ago. It is a relationship with the person of Jesus, who loves each of us uniquely, as if we are the only person in the world.
However, in our response we see that if we give ourselves to Jesus, we say that we belong to him. That means to have a mind and heart the same as his. It means that we listen to his voice. This is the voice of the Scriptures, of the teaching of the Church, and just as Jesus lived to do the will of the Father, so we live to respond in Jesus to the plan that God has given to each of us. We do this because we are known to Jesus through prayer. We do this because we know that only in him can we find true peace. We are lifted up tremendously by his promises that he gives us eternal life. We will never be lost. And also notice that if we are listening to Jesus, then no one can steal us from Jesus, no one can steal us from the Father, because the Father and Jesus are One in an infinite exchange of love, of presence and of grace.
If we go back to the second Reading: “The One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again. Neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the lamb will be their shepherd and lead them to springs of living water.”
Today’s Mass is the most wonderful promise of the guidance and protection that Jesus will give to us if we entrust ourselves to him. So it is most important that we entrust ourselves to Jesus because we are his people, that we listen to him unashamedly and without fear and we know that he will lead us to eternal life which has begun on the day of our baptism.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.